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Genealogy research is harder in America – this is why

  • Genealogy research is harder in America

I recently had a discussion with someone from the United Kingdom about family research and I made the comment that it is sometimes hard to get past ‘brick-walls’, especially when we have to trace back to other countries.

She replied, “It’s not so hard for us.”

I was astonished at her response and asked why.

She stated, “Unlike all your American ancestors, our ancestors never went anywhere. We’re all generally from the United Kingdom. Our families never left the country so all we have to do is to check local records. We don’t have to do research in other countries for our ancestry.”

I realized she was correct, but I was especially struck by her words, “We are all generally from the United Kingdom.”

Dutch family at Ellis Island 1901 (Library of Congress)

One Nationality

Is there anyone in America that can claim only one nationality in their ancestry? Most ancestors came from many countries to the United States at various times in history so very few citizens in America can say that their entire ancestry, both maternal and paternal, comes from one country. We are a mixture of many countries and no one, except for possibly, the Native Americans, can claim America as the origin of their ancestry. Our ancestors simply migrated here at different times.

This brought up additional questions in my mind.

Dutch family at Ellis Island 1901 (Library of Congress)

Who is a true American?

A true American is different from citizenship. Legally, citizenship is a “right to have rights” in the United States and there are two primary ways this can be done – – through birthright or naturalization. I am referring to the genealogical background only.

  • Should the nationalities of our ancestry always be hyphenated, such as Irish-America, etc.? What if someone has many ethnic backgrounds? How should they be included?

This statement about citizenship from Wikipedia describes a kinship that develops over time. . .

“While citizenship has had variability considerably throughout history, there are some common elements of citizenship over time. Citizenship bonds extend beyond basic kinship ties to unite people of different genetic backgrounds, that is, citizenship is more than a clan or extended kinship network. It generally describes the relation between a person and an overall political entity such as a city-state or nation and signifies membership in that body.”

  • Perhaps, there is a generation when we should drop the hyphens and simply be called an Americans. What generation is that?
  • Since our ancestors arrived at different times, even those who arrived before the Revolutionary War, at what generation does this “extended American kinship” network take place?
  • What are some of the personal characteristics that reveal the extended kinship has become American one? In other words, when do we become true Americans?

Share your opinions in the comments below.


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Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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  1. Nancy Gay Morse

    Especially when courthouses have burned down.

    1. Just wondering where your Gay family came from. My maternal grandmother was a Gay—born in Tuscaloosa County, AL.

  2. Linda Early

    I’d love it if we could all just be Americans. But there’s too much racism in this country. So much hurt and anger and rejection based on skin color. The USA is referred to as a melting pot…but there’s way too many NOT melting and they’re ruining the recipe.

  3. But what about all the invasions from Scandinavia, the Dutch and the French, not to mention the Romans?
    Logically, there would be lineage back to those countries.

  4. Grits were always a staple in our house as I grew up . I was taught that you did not waste food, but used it all in one way or another. Since I was born in 1927 , I was growing up during the Depression years , but was unaware if that . When there was left over grits from breakfast , my mother always put it into a pan spread it out flat and keep it covered in the refrigerator. For another meal she would slice it into sticks roughly an inch and a half wide and about an inch thick , then she would coat it sometimes in milk and then dip it in flour and fry it in a pan on top of the stove. It was really good that way and went well with either over light or scrambled eggs and bacon.

  5. My ancestors came from England, Scotland. Ireland, Germany, France and maybe several other places al before the Revolutionary War. I guess that I could insist that I am “European -American” but that seems foolish. I am proud to just be an “American”

  6. This is an interesting blog entry.
    Genealogy research is harder in the United states. One nationality. Who is a true American?
    Well, I was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1942. By virtue of where I was born, I am an American. An Africanamerican, some of whose ancestors have been in the United States since the 18th century. A considerable number of my genetic relatives refuse to acknowledge both their African genetic heritage and their genetic connection to me. There is nothing to be proud of, being American. Its a product of fate. No one chose to be born here. Quite frankly, the piece to me, reeks of an “America is special” aura which it doesn’t deserve.

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